CALGARY, AB -- Pavel Karnaukhov didn’t look the least bit nervous squaring off against the University of Calgary Dinos on Wednesday, nor did he at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton on the weekend.
His comfort level could soon be tested, though.
The 18-year-old Calgary Flames hopeful could swap out playing against peers for professionals with a trip to main camp following a strong showing with his fellow prospects in rookie camp.
“It’s my first big experience,” Karnaukhov said. “I feel much more comfortable now than I was one week ago.”
Are there nerves?
“No,” he said. “Honestly no.”
Will there be, facing the likes of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano?
“We’ll see,” he said. “I think so. For sure. I don’t know those guys, but I think it will be fun. I hope.”
Karnaukhov scored twice and added an assist to pace the Flames to a 5-1 win against the University of Calgary at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park on Wednesday, capping off his strong showing with main camp looming.
The rookie showcase, with three skates in Penticton and another against the Dinos, should have a few prospects feeling more comfortable, suggested Stockton Heat coach Ryan Huska.
“That confidence in having played some games that mean something is a good thing for guys when they step into camp when they get their first scrimmage with the veteran players, the returning players,” said Huska, who was behind the Flames bench in the win.
“The one positive thing with the games we’ve played is they’re up to the competing level that you need to be at and closer to game speed as to what they’re going to see when they get on the ice. There will be a significant change in jump up in camp as we all know, but these guys are at least in that competing mode right now where they should be going in with confidence.”
Many players are.
“Prospects camp is huge for guys that are attending it,” said Morgan Klimchuk, the 20-year-old first round pick in 2013 who is looking to turn pro this fall. “You want to be the best you can while you’re there. The main goal at the start of the season is to make the big club, and that really gets rolling in the next couple of days here. That’s something I’m very excited about.”
Kenney Morrison, who is used to seeing CIS in exhibition action while with Western Michigan University, wasted little time getting Calgary on the scoreboard against the Dinos.
Just 1:35 into the game, Morrison took a pass from Karnaukhov and sailed a shot by the blocker of University of Calgary starter Steven Stanford to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
Calgary exploded for three more goals in an 82-second span late in the first to blow the game open.
Klimchuk, who had two goals at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, added another, taking a pass out of the corner from Bill Arnold and ripping a shot over the left shoulder of Stanford to extend the Flames’ lead to two at 16:09.
“I kind of got the pass on the wall there and there was a guy taking a run at me, but made a good play to Billy, a little bit fortunate it got through there,” Klimchuk said. “I knew he’s a heads-up player and I knew he would hear me call for it so I tried to get on my house, got the puck and tried to get it off as quick as I could. It worked out good.”
It’s Klimchuk’s third goal in as many skates in rookie camp.
“I feel really good right now,” he said. “I’m healthy, knock on wood, so that’s something that I’m happy about and I’m playing well. I’m happy to get some breaks and put the puck in the net a bit here. When you get puck touches and things like that before (main) camp, it’s something that does allow you to settle in and be comfortable.”
Fifty-three seconds later, Karnaukhov added his first of the game, inheriting the puck from Oliver Kylington in the neutral zone before sliding a shot that beat Stanford far side along the ice. Tyson Baillie capped Calgary’s scoring at 17:31, taking a feed from Hunter Smith and lifting a backhand over the Dinos goaltender to give Calgary a 4-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Dinos kept Calgary scoreless in the second but couldn’t solve Jon Gillies, who played the opening 40 minutes and stopped all nine shots faced before giving way to backup Nick Schneider in the third period.
Schneider made seven saves, with his only blemish coming via a Coda Gordon deflection of Drydn Dow’s at 14:08 to cut Calgary’s lead to 4-1.
Karnaukhov regained the four-goal lead with his second with 4:08 remaining, taking a pass from Kylington and zipping another low shot by Stanford to make the score 5-1.
“I was just in good scoring chances, good areas,” he said. “I just shoot it. On the second goal, I didn’t even see where I shot. I just shot it at the net.”
NOTES: Klimchuk, Arnold and Morrison were alternate captains for the Flames… Following the game, the two teams played a five-minute 3-on-3 period. Ryan Lomberg scored the lone goal in the session.